# 10 Item Wardrobe

Ten-Item Wardrobe Help! Reader Q&A

Hello readers,

Life with baby is really blissful and I am enjoying my time off. Thank you for all of your messages!

The pre-recorded reader Q&A's continue this week as I address a commonly asked question about the ten-item wardrobe.

Valerie C writes:

Hi Jennifer,
This is my first year truly implementing the principles you teach in your books which I love. I am curious to know if you or any other daily connoisseur fans ever found it almost overwhelming at times. I have found there is a lot to purchase to look presentable always. From my ideal 10 item wardrobe, pajamas, shoes, and make up. How did you do it? one purchase at a time? Do you have any tips or strategies on pulling it all together? Even mentally, some days I feel great while others I feel I am not chic after all. Thanks for all the hard work I'm learning so much from you and other sharers.

Valerie, thank you for your question! Many people feel overwhelmed when the decide to truly start the ten-item wardrobe. Sometimes during this process they come to a realization about their true style and decide to start going in that direction. Other times they commit to wearing presentable pajamas and realize they only have one or two pairs. There are many more possibilities but through all this the urge to go shopping and buy everything you "need" can be intense.

In this week's video, I urge you to take it slow and enjoy the journey. I do not advocate going on a shopping spree to fill all of the holes in your wardrobe. I do recommend keeping a running list of everything you'd like to purchase, but only make a purchase when you can: a.) afford to do so (never put something on a credit card you can't pay off or go into debt over an item) and b.) have found just the right item to match your need (remember, we aren't just buying something because it's on sale anymore).

There are so many more ideas in this video, I do hope you watch. If you are unable to see the video above, click here, look in the sidebar of this blog, or visit my channel: www.youtube.com/TheDailyConnoisseur


Blogger Lizzbert shares her summer ten-item wardrobe here.

Happy Meets Home shares the top ten lessons she learned from the ten-item wardrobe.

Comments of the week

Pam writes:

This was a really great comment to discuss today. While my husband doesn't follow a Madame Chic lifestyle intentionally, I have an illustration regarding my husband about how just doing your own thing can influence others. My husband works as a supervisor in a factory. When he first starting working there he noticed that everyone, including the other supervisors, all wore their 'trashy' clothes because, well they work in a messy factory. My husband broke the mold and always came into work wearing dress pants and a button-down shirt. Other supervisors wanted to know why he dressed up. His reply was that as someone in a position of authority he needed to distinguish himself from his employees. The others soon realized that the simple act of dressing the part garnered much respect from my husbands employees towards him. They came back to him wanting to know how he could afford to dress so nice in a factory where it is commonplace for clothing to get marred. He told them that we buy all of his work clothes at Goodwill in a wealthy town nearby and spent MUCH less than they probably did on their work clothes. Soon after, other supervisors began showing up in dress pants and button-down shirts boasting that they had made a trip to Goodwill. We spend less money on a much higher quality of clothing for him to wear in the factory than we could afford if we shopped at regular stores. It doesn't always cost a lot of money to make an impact, and as you say, you may just inspire others to follow suit as we saw in my husband's factory.

Dear Pam, this could be my favorite comment ever! I love this story about your husband. I love that he did not care that his co-workers never dressed up. I love that it wasn't required of him. I love that he did it anyway in a way that fit in his budget and I love that he inspired others to do the same. You are married to one great guy! Thank you for sharing this story.

Lacy writes:

I am a private piano teacher, and I work from a studio in my home. I have fond memories of my own childhood teacher wearing her silk blouses, dresses, and kitten heels. She was well into her 70's when I began studying with her, and many of her clothes were older than I was! Yet, she always looked so elegant and credible--even though she was tiny, elderly, and a bit round--because her clothing choices stated clearly how seriously she took her profession. When I started to rebuild my studio after years off with children, I made a decision to emulate her. My "uniform" is typically a sheath dress and low heels (elegant, and EASY). New students and parents usually comment for weeks on how nicely I'm dressed before they seem to get used to seeing me like that. I smile, thank them, and tell them their lessons are very important to me. I do think it has helped them take lessons more seriously. I also suspect it cuts down on some of the more troublesome aspects of running a tiny business from your home in terms of helping clients understand that this is a REAL business, and therefore they must pay and do so on time. And it makes my life easier--a limited number of choices that always look great! Thank you for your thoughtful approach--your work certainly influenced my thinking just as I was beginning the arduous process of rebuilding my career. Congratulations and best wishes to you! ~Lacy

Dear Lacy, I love your story too. It's clear your own piano teacher influenced you in a way that has stayed with you into adulthood. This is exactly what I mean in Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic when I say that we all have viewers. You never know who you will inspire.

This week I would love to know... how is your ten-item wardrobe coming along? Have you struggled with the urge to go on a shopping spree after adopting the look presentable always philosophy? Do you have any struggles or tips you'd like to share with us? Let me know in the comment section and your comment could be chosen as comment of the week.

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Christina said...

I love the 10 item wordrobe and am currently giving a maternity 10 item wordrobe a lot of though as newly pregnant. I'm very curious how your seraphine dresses worked out and are you finding them nursing friendly as well as flattering on a postpartum body? I purchased a long black maxi dress so far. It's more than I've ever spent on a dress but the quality seems to be really great.

Lillian said...

Hi Jennifer! I think having a running list on the back of my mind of specific things I've been looking for has been most helpful. This spring for instance, I realized I was going to need a new swimsuit for the summer season. Instead of going to the store and buying the first thing that fit, I looked around and I did some research about which brands would be the highest quality I could budget for. I saved some money and in the meantime I put up with wearing the old suit. Then the brand I was most interested in had a sale. I was able to order a beautiful swimsuit in exactly the color I wanted for just under the price I had budgeted for. I'm really happy with it, and even more so because I had put the thought and planning into the purchase. Nothing is more rewarding than planning, budgeting and then shopping for an item. For one, it protects you from the "buyer's remorse" associated with impulse buys. In addition, purchasing things one at a time can make those purchases even more special and pleasurable than getting lots of new things all at once. When you plan, you avoid the potential for associating the things you own with negative emotions like guilt or financial stress.

Shandy Arend said...

Thanks so much for linking to my post Jennifer! Love your books!

Maureen said...

I can relate to Valerie's predicament. I first implemented the 10-item wardrobe in 2012, and in so doing developed a long mental list of clothes, make up, etc. that I wanted. At first I was frustrated that I couldn't go out and buy it all, but I have learned to enjoy the process of carefully researching and selecting the perfect items for me. I generally purchase new items as replacements once the things I have had wear out, and I save away gift cards and slowly make room in my budget for when that time comes. When the highly anticipated shopping day arrives, it is so exciting to go out and finally bring home the garment, item of make up, shoes, etc. that I have had my eye on. I've been chipping away at my "dream wardrobe" list for 4 years now, and it's been a satisfying process!

Margery said...

Here's something that helps me look and feel chic most days even if I'm just staying home with my kids. I put my hair in an easy and elegant updo (It's soooo hot in Atlanta now!), polish my toenails, and put on earrings and a necklace. I might only be wearing shorts and a plain t-shirt, but the little extras make you look and feel more polished. I do the simple makeup routine daily with makeup from Target. You don't have to spend huge amounts of $$$$ to be chic.

Polly said...

As each season changes, I assess my wardrobe and determine what else I need to buy or sew. And I make a list and stick to it! I will allow myself to purchase 1-2 new pairs of shoes per year (at most). I buy the best I can afford and try to care for them well. This year I had a pair of my favorite slingbacks--about 10 years old--re-soled (I had had them partially redone a few years back). It cost $20 and was worth every penny. When I buy a new leather shoe or boot, I take it to my cobbler to be sure he can re-sole it when the sole is worn through. I just did that with boots recently; he took one look and said "yep, I can replace this--and that's a great boot!" With his nod of approval, I will keep them. :)

I sew most of my clothes now, so generally do not have the temptation to go on a shopping spree (unless it's organic cotton jersey fabric!), but I sometimes am gripped with the desire to sew for two weeks straight and create new dresses and cardigans. I think that's one benefit of making my own clothes--it is a slow process. I think hard about each item before I make it and have to plan ahead to add to my wardrobe each season.

My makeup is simple and I only purchase items when I've run out of it completely. Less is more for me in terms of makeup, and I am content with having one eyeliner, one eyeshadow, one blush, etc. It works great for me! I wear minimal makeup most days (concealer, blush, eyebrows, mascara, lips) but can dress up this simple look with some Bare Minerals foundation and eyeshadow and eyeliner for evenings or events. It works well and is very inexpensive, although I buy quality makeup.

Having a plan on paper for what you would like to have is key, in my experience! I agree with what Lillian said about how this helps avoid guilt and financial stress!

Patricia said...

Jennifer, you've done a great common-sense service to your Daily Connoisseur blog followers in this post. You advised them to enjoy the journey of creating their presentable capsule wardrobe, slowly but surely, learning to refine their taste through lists instead of helter-skelter grabbing of sale items and not falling into credit card debt in the process.

Though I'm older than you, nevertheless, I respect and totally applaud your sense of self, your sense of style, and doing your best in your own home with your family and friends, and out in the public at large to maintain a sense of decorum, manners, and style that demonstrates your respect for yourself and for our society as an entirety...instead of falling to the pressure of "anything goes...anywhere, any time.

I'm so ready for the pendulum to swing back to your aesthetic, Jennifer...certainly not to Puritanism, the Edwardian or Victorian, but to living life as beautifully as is possible in whatever financial circumstances one finds themselves. The best you can afford to offer yourself, your family, and even strangers with love, grace, and kindness is the greatest gift you can enjoy or bestow.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer,
I was a year into decluttering my home, adopting minimalit tools when I happened upon your blog thanks to your ten-item wardrobe concept. What was different about your message/ what I just loved, is you presented a way of dressing that wasn't only about less, but with your strong sense of style & "be presentable always"-message. Then I also discovered Marie Kondo (with her book "the life changing magic of tidying up") who gave a sort of similar message for the entire home in telling us to keep only what sparks joy. Both of your messages told me its about quality, not quantity (and not just reduction). To keep and use what makes me and my home beautiful and joyful.

As to your question of the transition to a ten item wardrobe, I actually did go on a minor shopping spree, although for a reason I couldn't help. I had just been in bed rest for almost a year due to an illness, and the stillness & prescription drugs had made me gain weight & 1-2 sizes. Nothing looks less flattering than clothes that don't fit so ten items or not, I just needed clothes, period! But of course the ten item way of thinking made it possible to make do with less/not needing to shop as much! Also, I did have some garments that I could still use, despite the weight gain. Now, according to both my husband & my mother the weight gain is hardly visible (and they are both always brutally honest) since I wear clothes that fit.

So really - thank you so much for the ten item wardrobe concept! No other "minimalist" capsule wardrobe made sense to me. In total the ten items plus extras equals to aproximately the recomended 33 or 37 garments of some of the popular capsule wardrobe concepts, but in defining it all into a certain amount of tops, bottoms, t-shirts etc, it was much more doable, easy & it all made sense to me. ~K

Anonymous said...

I have honed my wardrobe down to around ten items, and yes, it was a slow process as I got rid of what I wasn't wearing and things that just weren't me... determined on paper what I needed to fill in the gaps... and here's the tricky part: waited patiently to fill in those gaps. Most of the time I knew in my head what I wanted to fill in those gaps (For instance: black sheath dress. I couldn't find one for a couple years that was fitted rather than loose, with a rounded neckline rather than square or v-neck, sleeveless rather than with short sleeves, etc. Finally, I found the dress I was looking for as I was food shopping. I glanced up at the window of Ann Taylor as I drove by, and there was the dress! I went in, tried it on, and it was perfect! I am so glad that I waited for the right one; I know I look impeccable each time I wear it.) You would be surprised how often serendipity is involved in finding the right pieces. Once I have it pictured, it's like I put that image out into the Universe, and the Universe responds by putting me in the right place at the right time to find it. As well as the sheath dress I mentioned, this happened when I wanted a skirt like the red lace tulip skirt worn in by Amelie in the eponymous film -- but in black. It took the better part of the year, but I was browsing through Anthropologie's sale racks and there it was -- marked down AND on sale. I got it for a song and I wear it to death. When you actually love all the pieces, you don't mind wearing them repeatedly.

Pam said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks so much for sharing my husband's story. He's a gem and I'm so thankful for him. I pray that you and your family are getting plenty of rest and bonding time with the new little one. I look forward to your videos every week.

Gloria Gail said...

Here is a suggestion about transitioning to a ten-item wardrobe that your reader Valerie C. may find helpful. Be proud to wear the items you love in heavy rotation. These days, minimalist blogs are replete with stories of people who wear the same clothing every day. While “the uniform” is an extreme concept for most of us, it does demonstrate the fact that people do not specifically notice what you wear. What they notice is the pleasure of your company when you exude confidence and joy; and you can actually do that in the same wonderful dress that you wore two days ago! You will be in good company. Style icon Kate Middleton is known for wearing the same items many times.

Sue Ferguson said...
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Sue Ferguson said...

Jennifer, I met you through my library audio book app.

The 10 item wardrobe concept is a God-send to me. I'm nearing 60 years old and am petite. Finding clothes is difficult when you're a 00P or 0P. Initially I felt great relief that I didn't have to find a closet-full of clothes--only a few items.

I've been amazed at the combinations I have. It's stretched me to look harder for the possibilities in front of me and I'm pleased.

Thank you!

galant said...

My husband is retired (has been for 18 years) but during his time at work, he was a senior engineer. Now, for those who don't know the difference, an engineer isn't a mechanic, so he didn't come back with grease under his fingernails, but of course, he was working in a factory environment. But he always wore a suit in the 1960s/1970s and then in the 1980s/1990s he wore a sports jacket and trousers, but always a collar and tie. Indeed, he was once called (by one of the employees) the best dressed man in the factory, a comment of which he was very proud as he never spent much money on clothes, he just took care to buy the best he could afford and then to look after them. He is now 80 and still smart. And unlike a lot of elderly men, he doesn't wear Horlicks-coloured clothes! So many men end up in a sea of beige clothes, don't they? It's as if once they are older they forget there are wonderful colours in which to dress (mind you, nor would be wear pink or red trousers, they are a total no-no!)
Margaret P

spanekopita said...

Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for introducing the 10-item wardrobe to such a broad audience. My wonderful sister-in-law turned me on to "Lessons from Madame Chic" last year, and I created my first 10-item wardrobe for spring-summer 2015. I did one of the things you suggest in your video--pulled some nicer clothes that I'd always saved for special occasions into regular rotation. This included an Ann Taylor dress I'd bought on a whim some years ago. On one of the days last summer when I wore that dress (which is SO comfortable--why didn't I wear it more often?) I got a compliment from a woman in an office I visited AND a shout-out from a passing car as I walked along the street: "Great dress!" It felt like the world was affirming my new approach to clothing.

Now that I'm into my second spring-summer wardrobe, I'm seeing how the 10-item wardrobe is helping me hone my personal sense of style. I love the pencil skirt, for example! And when I bought a top from Talbot's and fell in love with it, I went back and allowed myself to buy two more in different colors, something I never would have done in the past. But these tops feel so much like ME, that it seemed right to have more than one.

So, thank you you again for all of work, and enjoy your time off with your new little bundle of joy!

Unknown said...

Thank you Jennifer for answering my inquiry. I have made a list and plan on budgeting for items after my summer travels. I have made some purchases and still have a ways to go. It's a lot of fun and really is teaching me a lot about myself and society. Congratulations on your son, I am so happy for you. Thank you again for the help.

Unknown said...

In the first a couple of years, I just kept getting rid of my clothes but didn't buy anything new. Because I wasn't sure if 10 is the right number for me. Once I figured out how many dresses or blouses or coats I really need for each season, I wrote them down on a spread sheet. Now my spreadsheet is getting sophisticated. columns wise, the left a few columns are my ideal number of items, the right a few columns are the numbers that I own. Row wise is grouped by years, then seasons, then categories such as coats, skirts, pants.... , the middle cells are very brief descriptions of color and style. Thus, my entire wardrobe is on this sheet, both wish and actual list. I constantly update it if I have new ideas about my style.

PLL said...

Funny how what my Mother tried to instill in me, less is more, quality over quantity has come full circle as I edit what I wear say and do with a more discerning thought. From following you, I know you have a thing with society adopting the 24 hour go everywhere do everything yoga pant. I must admit I own some of those yoga pants and first struggled with continuing to wear them, but I made peace with it. Since I work from home and go to the gym when I finish my day, wearing a yoga pant just works for me. So during the day I style my yoga pants with ballet flats, a cute scarf and coordinating tee shirt and cardigan. And if I need to run an errand in the middle of the day I really do feel presentable. Plus it really helps me to keep a capsule wardrobe. I share this because in my journey to live a more present, thoughtful and grateful life I needed to start where I was and make the best of it and thanks to your inclusive message I know I am doing just that.

Deborah Childs said...

Hi Lillian, I love this story - really inspiring. I'm interested to know did you research and buy online? I always have difficulty unless I try something on. Thank you, Debs

Unknown said...
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The Daily Connoisseur said...

Hello ladies,

I had a hard time choosing the comment of the week because you all have such insightful comments! Thank you for weighing in on this very fun topic. If you are in America, I hope you have a great July 4th weekend.

Best wishes,

Jennifer xx

Lillian said...

Hi Debs! Hope you will see this - I'm not sure how to respond directly to comments on blogspot.
I did order my suit online. It was the first time I had done this, because up until now I felt the way you did. I much prefer to try something on in the store. In this case however, the suit was measured by inches instead of simply small, medium, and large, so I was more confident it would fit. I also confirmed with a sales representative that I could return it.

Deborah Childs said...

Thank you Lillian!
Yes, this is good - that it gave a more accurate measurement.
I also thought since that perhaps I could research the usual sort of shops I like online before going to shops to try things on so I have a good idea of what styles they have for the upcoming season. Thanks again! Debs